World Aids Day
Remembering Robert and hopes for the future
Today is World Aids Day. It has been 34 years since my great friend, the artist Robert Mapplethorpe died of complications from AIDS, as well as so many other friends and acquaintances. It is still painful to reenter that dark corridor of loss, but within it we can remember and honor those we have lost.
In late February, shortly before his death, I wrote a letter to Robert. Within it is my continuing love and gratitude. Below is the text and youth’s portrait. And finally, a flower, his red poppy.
We all possess stories of how the AIDS epidemic cruelly touched aspects of life, here pause to remember as well as vow to help educate and protect our young.
Letter to Robert, from Just Kids.
Often as I lie awake I wonder if you are also lying awake. Are you in pain or feeling alone? You drew me from the darkest period of my young life, sharing with me the sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together. Your work, coming from a fluid source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of holding hands with God. Remember, through everything, you have always held that hand, grip it hard, Robert, and don’t let go.
The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occurred to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.
“This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “World AIDS Day 35: Remember and Commit.” This annual event serves as a reminder of the global struggle to end HIV-related stigma, an opportunity to honor those we have lost, and a rallying cry to commit to working toward a day when HIV is no longer a public health threat.”
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